Spencer and a liberal road to welfare: the eclipse of a vision

John Offer

in An intellectual history of British social policy

Published by Policy Press

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9781861345318
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447301455 | DOI:
Spencer and a liberal road to welfare: the eclipse of a vision

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This chapter addresses both the arguments of Herbert Spencer against welfare provisions emanating from the state and his support for ‘private beneficence’, for charities and for the expanded administration of civil justice. It also argues that Spencer's work is not only significant in the history of social theory and welfare but is intrinsic to the process of interpreting present-day debates and research priorities in welfare studies. In addition, it investigates what Spencer's liberal vision of the future for the well-being of individuals amounted to, and the nature of the social and individual life and the political structures and functions that he believed to be the necessary pre-conditions for it. Private beneficence allows social evolution to progress. Spencer's ideas on welfare lacked powerful friends, a situation not helped by his own diffidence towards the application of his ideas.

Keywords: Herbert Spencer; welfare provisions; private beneficence; charities; civil justice; liberal vision

Chapter.  9914 words. 

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